Pageant of Plastiques

April 23, 2018
In honor of Earth Day, the Sunday Ethical Education for Kids (SEEK) program presented a Pageant of Plastiques fashion show, which featured accessories crafted from plastic and this slideshow full of plastic facts. SEEK students challenge you to use less plastic and use your imagination to re-use the plastic you’ve already got.

RFT names the Society a place “way more beautiful than you’d expect”

April 14, 2018

The River Front Times has named the Ethical Society of St. Louis as one of 19 St. Louis Places That Are Way More Beautiful Than You’d Expect.

Read more about our Clayton Road building.

Opening Words from Sun. April 8 by Treasure Shields Redmond: “Why A Black Woman Named Fannie Lou Hamer Matters Now More Than Ever”

April 9, 2018

Who was Fannie Lou Hamer?

When one thinks of the millions of souls lost during the transatlantic slave trade, the missed potential immediately jumps to mind. All genocide robs us of the few geniuses that each culture produces. At the beginning of the previous century the pernicious system named Jim Crow served as another sort of genocide in the U.S. A genocide of potential. Many scholars have written of the number of lynchings during Jim Crow, perhaps the most famous one being Ida B. Wells’s A Red Record. Along with the incomprehensible loss of life, however, are the people who lived, but not really. The ones who weren’t fortunate enough to die. Those who lived believing a system that counted them as less valuable, less competent, less human; that this system was right, godly, and, (maybe worst of all), unchangeable.

Board Nominees – 2018

March 17, 2018

The Nominating Committee members – Cathy Pickard, Ellen Wilson, Judy Kulczycki, and Cy Henningsen – are pleased to submit to the Board and to the membership the following nominees for the Ethical Society Board of Trustees:

Amanda Verbeck – President-Elect

Amanda Verbeck

Amanda is an artist, printmaker, and small business owner at Pele Prints. She joined the Ethical Society in 2015. Since then, Amanda has been involved in many groups and projects through out the Society, including the Young Ethicals, Branding Team, Diversity Task Force, Aesthetics Group, Evolution Exhibit, Lay Leadership Development Committee, and more. The community and people at the Society have become an integral part of her life, and excited about the prospect of serving the Society in a major leadership capacity

Christine Floss – Secretary

Christine Floss

Christine first learned about the Ethical Society when her daughter, Amanda Stadermann, participated in SEEK’s Coming of Age program, and she joined as a member in 2008. A geochemist by training she is currently a research professor in the Physics Department at Washington University, studying the origin and evolution of our solar system. Christine has served on the Board in multiple roles, including as President, Secretary and Trustee-at-large. She is entering the second year of her current three-year term as trustee.  If approved by the membership, the upcoming year will also be her second as Secretary.

Matthew Hile – Trustee

Matthew Hile

Matthew retired as a Research Associate Professor Emeritus from UMSL’s Missouri Institute of Mental Health. He and his wife Allison have been members since 1982. Over the years, he has served on Ethical Education Committee (member and Chair), Program Council (member and Chair), the Board (member), Personnel Committee (member), the Leader Search Committee (Chair) that selected Kate, and the Governance Task Force (Chair) which created our current governance structure.  In 2016 he was honored to be a recipient of the AEU’s Anna Garlin Spencer award for outstanding long-term volunteer contributions to the Ethical Society of St. Louis.

Note:  Ethical Society By-Laws allow for additional nominations to the Board, via petition.  Members in good standing may be nominated to open Board positions by written petition, signed by at least ten active members and filed at the Society office at least 30 days prior to the Annual Membership Meeting (May 15, 2018).  If the nominee-by-petition is running to be an officer of the Board, the position must be specified.

Post-Platform Reflection: James Croft’s “Get Angry, Make Change”

March 15, 2018
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I was raised in New York City during a recession, and it often seemed like an angry place, at least in public. I recently read that New Yorkers smile less than people in any other city in America. I have spent a lot of my adult life trying to learn to be less angry and less defensive. I read stoic philosophy and practice mindfulness meditation and seek to be a calm and peaceful person. And I believe that to the extent I’ve succeeded at this, it’s helped me be a better Ethical Leader.

So I was challenged by James’s Platform “Get Angry, Make Change,” and his argument that “it is heat that allows us to bend the iron of the world. Hot hearts make change, not cool heads.” I have often wondered at how to ensure that calm does not mean apathetic, and peaceful does not mean inactive. At the same time, I believe that the most effective change is brought about by a hot heart ruled by a cool head, or at least that the two need not be in conflict. I think anger can be great and even necessary in the gas tank, but I worry when it’s sitting in the driver’s seat.

James referenced psychologists who differentiate between anger and rage, with anger being a motivator of positive action and rage being a blinding emotion that causes people to lash out. This reminds me of what I read a couple months ago in The Book of Joy, in preparation for my Platform Address “Is Comparison the Thief of Joy?” The book is a set of discussions between Bishop Desmond Tutu and the Dalai Lama, two men who maintain joyful outlooks on life despite seeing and experiencing great hardship. They differentiate between what we might call “righteous” anger, which is anger on behalf of others that motivates us to fight injustice, and what we might call “self-righteous” anger, which is more about our own egos.

There are also tactical considerations with anger and its use and expression. There is a difference between being motivated by anger and expressing ourselves angrily.

I took to heart James’s call that we should “try to become more comfortable with the anger of others–particularly the anger of women and people of color, who are often subject to damaging stereotypes when they allow themselves to show anger.”

Yet a practical problem with angry rhetoric is that it whips up those who already agree with us but alienates those who don’t. And anger is almost always met with anger—so if anger is motivating, then making our opponents angry also motivates them. And then you have a fight rather than dialogue, debate, or negotiation.

I’m really not sure how I feel about anger, to be honest. Maybe James is right and sometimes you need to have a fight to have any change at all.

James shared several videos of people who had lost loved ones to gun violence; their anger was palpable, and contagious. And indeed their anger has reignited a movement that might turn out to be even more powerful than the weapons industry. I certainly hope so.

James Croft quoted in Clayton Patch article

March 15, 2018

James Croft, Outreach Director, was quoted in the Clayton Patch article Clayton High School Students Stage Walkout Over Gun Violence.

James Croft, outreach director of the Ethical Society of St. Louis — part of the American Ethical Union — has lobbied for stricter gun laws, and called the rise in student activism encouraging. Such civic engagement, he said, is important to the development of young people into responsible adults. Croft holds a doctorate in human development and education from Harvard University.

“Young people have a right to autonomy,” he said. “Some people are concerned about young people leaving their schools and classrooms to participate in these protests. But my perspective, as a former high school teacher, is that it’s extremely important as part of their civic education to actively participate in the political process. It’s profoundly educational to participate in walkouts like the ones happening today. I believe it is so important at this moment for young people to make their voices heard.”

He said the best way for students to learn autonomy is to create something of value in their communities, and he praised the efforts of students at Clayton High School and elsewhere in working toward that goal.

“What these students are doing is trying to change the society in which they live, a society in which they have a stake but not a vote, so they’re coming up with creative ways to bring attention to the issues that are important to them,” Croft said. “I think that demonstrates a high level of maturity, and I think it is to be respected and supported.”

(Archived copy)

SEEK Parent Talk Slideshow on Regulating Emotions

March 13, 2018

School Psychologist Shannon Davis discussed the ways we can cultivate healthy emotional regulation skills in our children during a SEEK Parent Talk on Regulating Emotions March 4, 2018.

She addressed the following questions in the below slideshow: How can we recognize our kids’ triggers, avoid power struggles, coach kids to cope with strong, negative feelings, and work with our kids’ educators to provide appropriate support? What are schools’ protocols for de-escalation and reporting their interventions when kids’ explosive feelings become challenging behaviors?

She was gracious enough to share her slideshow.


Opening Words from Sun. March 11 by Brian Vandenberg: “Why Me?!”

March 11, 2018

“The fault, dear Brutus is not in our stars, but in ourselves, that we are underlings." 
This famous line from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar wisely advises that we are not doomed by
the heavens, but by ourselves. I would like to add a corollary– -that how we regard the stars can
doom or liberate us; that our lives are deeply affected by our cosmology.

Consider: “Why me?!”

Post-Platform Reflection: That Uppity Theatre Company’s “Playhouse Emissions: Climate Change Theatre”

March 8, 2018
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Climate change is an urgent problem, yet so many people remain in denial or have crossed over into despair—and the result of both of these emotional states is inaction. I’ve read, heard, and seen a lot of presentations on climate change, and even though I’m an avid environmentalist, frankly I find it hard sometimes to get up the energy to go to yet another climate change event—Will I learn anything new? Will this change anything, or will I just feel more depressed afterward?

So I was excited last fall when the Ethical Society of St. Louis had the opportunity to host a climate change theatre and action evening, part of a coordinated international event to use the power of creative performance to educate and motivate people in a different way. And I was thrilled when That Uppity Theatre Company and Ashleyliane Dance Company agreed to do a slightly shorter version of that evening as a special Arts Festival Sunday Platform.

Unfortunately if you weren’t there in person, you missed two powerful dance pieces, but you can still experience the short plays through the podcast. I think many of us can identify with the characters, from the activist with the bumper crop of bumper stickers, to the gardener freaking out over the changes he sees in his own backyard, to the woman trying to figure out how to balance desire for a simple treat with the environmental impact of all our consumer choices. As a fan of science fiction, I found the futuristic plays to be particularly powerful, especially the little girl who could not even imagine having enough water to immerse her whole body in—That could be the real future of many places if global warming is allowed to continue.

But the play that left me with the most urgent questions is the final one, in which our future ancestors view the last surviving Homo Sapiens in a zoo or reserve. They find us cutely primitive and reassure us that they understand we did the best we could. I found that forgiveness kind, but false, at least so far. I wish we were currently doing the best we can. Instead, most of us are falling far short of making real efforts to cut our energy consumption and to insist that companies and governments make the necessary changes to reverse climate change. Hopefully, science and politics will be joined by more creative responses such as climate change theatre to help move more people on a deeper level, so that one day our ancestors, whether Homo Sapiens or something new, can truly say we did our best.

Post Platform Reflection: Kate Lovelady’s “Love Stinks”

March 6, 2018
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Kate’s Platform Address on Sunday, “Love Stinks,” drew our attention to the negative aspects of love. She reminded us that love can be unbearable, insufferable, painful – it isn’t always chocolates and roses. Our love can be unrequited; we may never find love; there are challenges in every loving relationship, so even if we find love, we can find it difficult; love is sometimes insufficient to sustain a relationship; it is terrible to lose love, given the vulnerability love requires; sometimes we are bad at loving others, and sometimes we are loved badly. Love can be as upsetting as it can be uplifting.

It may seem depressing to dive with such enthusiasm into the downsides of love. There is a tendency, in our culture, to recoil from anything which might complicate our picture of “positive” emotions. So many of our cherished cultural stories about love exalt it as the perfect union of two people, the best possible achievement in life – when in truth, a perfect relationship is impossible, and there are many routes to happiness, some of which do not involve love at all.

That’s why I appreciated Kate’s perspective on love so much. It’s important to keep love – and other goals our culture sets up for us – in proper perspective. The stories we tell ourselves about love can be overwhelming and impossible to achieve, which makes us nervous and miserable. Having a realistic outlook enables us to meet love face to face, and have more reasonable expectations for our relationships.

This is a typically Ethical Humanist approach to things: we try to avoid putting anything on too high a pedestal, keeping our view realistic and honest. I look forward to Kate’s future Platform Addresses, “Laughter Sucks” and “Joy Isn’t All It’s Cracked Up To Be!”

Art Show – M. J. Goerke’s

March 5, 2018

M. J. Goerke

M. J. Goerke is a versatile and distinguished mixed media artist. Well known in the St. Louis artist community and the national art scene, Goerke is active in many organizations. She teaches for UM/SL and does artist in residence programs and workshops in the book arts for The Artists Guild, Foundry Art Centre, local colleges and schools to name a few. The winner of many prestigious awards in every category that she has done, she was the Best of Show Winner in 2000 for the prestigious St. Louis Art Fair. and the Peoria Art Fair the same year. She was a major winner of  a top awards in Salute to The Master in Illinois, seven times! She also has won top awards at the St. Louis Artists Guild, Art St. Louis, The Foundry Art Centre in St. Charles, Greater St. Louis Art Association, Peoria Art Guild, Ohio Street Fair in Columbus Ohio, Best of Show at Feast Chesterfield Arts.

Goerke is no stranger to many accolades in the art community. She has work in many collections across the country and Europe including Monsanto, Ohio State University Library, Fact Finder’s, Bonhomme Presbyterian Church, C.J Thomas Insurance Company, Federal Reserve Bank, St Louis Post Dispatch, Psychological Associates Des Moines, Iowa, Sylvan Learning Center, The International Museum of Collage, Mexico, Artcolle Museum in Sergines, France. Her work is in private collections in the United States, Canada, Japan, Australia, Mexico, France, England and Russia ( In the Russian Embassy).

Well respected for her work as well as her opinions of the art scene, she has curated book shows and juried exhibits. and worked on installations locally and out of town. A founding member of Thirteen Squared, a collaborative of women artists, who raise monies for the local art scene. She volunteers her time and knowledge to the community earning her the respect of local artists as well as some national artists. All this and she produces large volumes of work. A true renaissance woman.

M. J. Goerke’s exhibit will open on Friday, 27 April, with a reception from 12:30 to 2:30 on 29 April. The exhibit will be hanging through 4 June.

Listing of all Art Shows.

Opening Words from Sun. March 4 by Outreach Director James Croft

March 4, 2018

I’m James, Outreach Direct of the Ethical Society of St. Louis, and I have a confession to make: I don’t do nearly enough for the environment.

I’m a shopper. I like to buy things. I like to buy things from Amazon, where I can browse a huge database of stuff I don’t need, and have it delivered to my door, preferably the very next day, by drone. And when these things arrive they are covered in packaging. Boxes inside boxes inside boxes. A tiny gadget is packaged in a huge box, filled with plastic to make sure the box doesn’t get dinged – the box I’m going to throw away anyway.

Faith Perspectives: Ending gun culture

March 4, 2018

“Last week we looked at active shooter training at work. What would we do, we wondered, if a person with a gun came into our congregation and started killing people?”

Read Outreach Director James Croft’s Faith Perspectives article in the Post-Dispatch.

Archived copy (PDF)

Opening Words from Sun. February 25 by Louise Jett

February 28, 2018

Good morning. My name is Louise Jett, and I am the social media manager here at the Ethical Society.

When I first found the listing for the social media manager position on LinkedIn, I got really excited. I knew that if the Society was truly ethical, and I was truly the right person for the job, I would be hired and I would succeed in spreading awareness about a movement I cherish – Humanism.

Eat Pizza – Donate to SEEK!

February 27, 2018

Please join MOD Pizza in supporting SEEK Sunday, March 25, all day. Just present this MOD Pizza Fundraiser Flyer to the cashier, and MOD will donate 20% of your bill to support SEEK, our Sunday Ethical Education for Kids program.

Online orders will not be counted toward our fundraiser. Please go into the restaurant or call ahead in order to participate in the donation opportunity.

8855K Ladue Rd.
Ladue, MO 63124

Please note, MOD is unable to accept extra donations within the store on behalf of SEEK. If you would like to donate directly to the program, please contact Ethical Education Director Rachel Valenti at

SEEK MOD Pizza Fundraiser Flyer

Opening Words from Sun. February 18 by Andy Stanton

February 18, 2018

Good morning.

I’m Andy Stanton, a relatively new member of the Ethical Society of St. Louis. My wife, Mary Ellen, and I joined in May of last year when we moved to St. Louis from the Washington DC area, where we’d lived for close to 50 years.

We came to St. Louis because both of us are retired and we wanted to live closer to our daughter, who had recently moved to Nashville. We chose St. Louis, rather than Nashville, as Mary Ellen was born and raised in St. Louis and still has family here. But there’s another very important reason why we wanted to move to St. Louis. And that is the presence of this organization, the Ethical Society of St. Louis, plus the Ethical Society Mid-Rivers in St. Peters.

Opening Words from Sun. February 11 by David Gutekunst

February 11, 2018

Good morning! Today I’m going to try to link this month’s theme of Love with January’s theme of Fear & Hate. 

In mid-January, Kate gave a platform talk, Fear: the Mind Killer, titled after a theme in the science fiction novel Dune. I haven’t read Dune…but I have watched it go up in flames.

Post-Platform Reflection: James Croft’s “How We Make a Difference”

February 8, 2018
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I found this Platform Address to be very moving, and motivating. I appreciated James’s honesty about how tiny the organized Ethical Humanism movement is, and even the larger organized humanist movement. At the same time, I think it’s helpful (at least it’s helpful to me) to realize that humanist values, beliefs, and practices are widespread and growing in America and the world. The situation of Ethical Humanism is very different from that of a lot of religions in this way. For instance, it’s unlikely that someone who had never heard of Christianity or belonged to a Christian church would somehow on their own come up with the story of Jesus or spontaneously create the ritual of communion. In the case of Ethical Humanism, though, there are many millions of people who currently share the worldview, values, and even basic practices of Ethical Humanists without ever having heard of an Ethical Society, let alone having belonged to one.

So why aren’t there more, and bigger, Ethical Societies? I think this has more to do with culture and habit than beliefs. Every year, a smaller percentage of the population belongs to any organized community. And if you don’t have to be a member of an Ethical Society to be a “good, practicing” ethical humanist, why get up and go somewhere on Sundays, why commit and pledge to an organization at all?

This question brings me back to James’s talk, and his answer of how we make a difference, and how we make “bearable and meaningful” the fact of our smallness in the vastness of space and time: Community, connection, solidarity, friendship, love. More and more people seem to be rejecting “organized” anything, rejecting making significant commitments of time and resources to communities and congregations. At the same time, many people are feeling more alienated, more lonely, and more anxious, and many feel a lack of meaning and purpose in their lives.

Humans find and create meaning and purpose together—by being together, learning from each other, challenging each other, working together on projects that promote shared values, eating and having fun together. Committing to be in community with others is an act of mutual trust, hope, and, yes, even a kind of love. We feel this collective love when we are in an intimate small group where we can safely share our personal thoughts and feelings, and when we are in a huge public march advocating for shared goals. We feel this love when we know we can rely on our community to help us when we are in need, and when we actively support others in need.

I hope that more people will not continue to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Like many, I rejected the supernatural stories I learned as a child and the rituals that had no meaning for me. But I’m so glad I found that I could still have mutually supportive community and shared purpose—being a member of an Ethical Society brings meaning and joy to my life. That’s also why I chose to work as a Leader, and to try to let more people know about Ethical Humanism. And it’s why I have hope that our tiny movement will grow. But even if it doesn’t, that wouldn’t take away from all that this Ethical Society has provided for over 100 years, and all it continues to provide for its members and the wider community. And whether or not Ethical Humanism as a denomination grows, I am confident that the wider wave of humanism we are a part of will grow and evolve, as humanity continues to learn to love and care for all the members of the human family and all the life on our small planet.

Art Show – Susan Rogers

February 7, 2018

Susan Rogers

Susan enjoys working outdoors, where nature is the instructor. Choosing to portray how she feels about the landscape, not just recording the scene. She is inspired by the disappearing landscape that is being claimed by urban sprawl. She creates paintings that help to preserve these quiet scenes, so that they will survive for hundreds of years. She hopes that her artwork will assist in slowing down the fast pace of our everyday lives.

When painting “en plein air” or in my studio it is important to work with efficiency. Simplifying what I see is a necessity. My goal is to capture the essence of the light and the magic that drew me to the scene in the first place.

Susan Rogers’ exhibit will open on Sunday, March 11, with a reception from 12:30 to 2:30. The exhibit will be hanging through 14 April.

For more information go to:

Listing of all Art Shows.

Our Staff Are Our Heart

February 6, 2018
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In her Platform Address last Sunday, “Evolving Together,” our Leader Kate Lovelady stressed the importance of our staff to the life of the Ethical Society community. I’d just like to take a moment to echo her sentiment: our staff are the heart of the Ethical Society of St. Louis. Every single one of them is a pleasure to work with, and I get up every day excited to get to the Society and prepare a new week’s programs.

Nancy Jelinek works overtime in the office almost every day, and is on top of absolutely everything that happens at the Society – it’s superhuman, really. Rachel Valenti and Mary Harden design, prepare, and deliver amazing lessons and programs for our young people, making the Ethical Society a fantastic place to raise children. Kitt Rogers is a supremely dedicated Facility Coordinator, and she often comes into work on odd days to sort out a problem or make sure the heating’s on. JD Brooks seems to know every musicidan in the city, and arranges for exquisite and exquisitely varied Platform music every single week. Debbie Bernett is always on hand to set up a room, make endless vats of coffee, or prepare a projector to ensure our programs run smoothly. Louise Jett, our newest staff addition, has quickly become a member of our community and has made my job immeasurably easier and even more enjoyable.

We are hugely lucky to have such a talented and dedicated staff.

We are even luckier to have such a talented and dedicated Leader, in Kate Lovelady. Kate has become a mentor and a friend over the past few years, and I cannot express how lucky I feel for the privilege of working alongside her. She is the last person to sing her own praises, so I will say it for her: much of the success of the Ethical Society of St. Louis is down to Kate’s caring, thoughtful, steady, and passionate leadership over more than ten years. Most Societies do not enjoy a Leader with such a wide range of skills, and we should be so grateful for everything she has done for our community.

I think we can say with confidence that with staff of this caliber the Society is in good hands. As we look to further growth and success in the future, we can be thankful for the work these staff put in to make it happen.